Connecticut adopted a strong anti-SLAPP law in 2017. It allows defendants to file a special motion to dismiss when a complaint is “based on the opposing party’s exercise of its right of free speech, right to petition the government, or right of association” under the U.S. or Connecticut constitutions. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 52-196a(b) (2019). A court will grant the special motion if the defendant shows, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the complaint is based on the defendant’s exercise of the right of free speech, petition, or association, unless the plaintiff shows “with particularity” the circumstances giving rise to the complaint and demonstrates that there is probable cause that the plaintiff will prevail. § 52-196a(e)(3).
The special motion to dismiss must be filed within 30 days after the date of return of the complaint or the filing of the counterclaim or cross-claim. § 52-196a(c).
Once a special motion to dismiss has been filed, the court must stay all discovery until it rules on the motion and any appeal has been resolved, although a court may permit “limited discovery” relevant to the special motion upon a showing of good cause. § 52-196a(d).
With limited exceptions, a court must conduct an expedited hearing on the special motion within 60 days of the date of filing. § 52-196a(e)(1).
Connecticut’s anti-SLAPP law contemplates that a defendant can immediately appeal a trial court’s decision denying a special motion to dismiss—known as an “interlocutory appeal”—without having to wait until a final decision in the case. § 52-196a(d) (providing that an automatic stay of discovery remains in effect until the court rules on the special motion “and any interlocutory appeal thereof”). Despite this language, however, a clerk for the Connecticut appellate court dismissed an interlocutory appeal citing the “lack of a final judgment.” Pryor v. Brignole, AC 42254 (Conn. App. Ct. Mar. 3, 2021), http://civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov/DocumentInquiry/DocumentInquiry.aspx?DocumentNo=20380046. This decision has been appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, where it is currently pending. Pryor v. Brignole, 248 A.3d 3 (Conn. 2021). The appellate court’s interpretation, ignoring the anti-SLAPP law’s reference to interlocutory appeals, appears to be anomalous. See, e.g., Steidley v. Cmty. Newspaper Holdings, Inc., 383 P.3d 780, 782 n.3 (Okla. Civ. App. 2016) (allowing an immediate appeal under Oklahoma’s anti-SLAPP law which also references “interlocutory” appeals); Lasater v. Thompson, No. 02-20-00290-CV, 2021 WL 386957 at *2 (Tex. App. Feb. 4, 2021) (same).
If the court grants the special motion, the defendant is entitled to recover attorney’s fees and court costs from the plaintiff. § 52-196a(f)(1). However, if the court denies the special motion and finds that it was “frivolous or solely intended to cause delay,” the court must award the plaintiff attorney’s fees and costs. § 52-196a(f)(2).